Treating Clubfoot Children—Time for Government Intervention

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Madam Oretha Saylee, a mother from Grand Gedeh County, was ecstatic when her little daughter, club-footed from birth, was successfully treated for this crippling and embarrassing condition. The child’s feet are now completely normal, and she can walk just as easily and comfortably as other children.

We are happy for Madam Saydee and her daughter, as we are for all the 700 or more children who have been helped by a local, faith-based non-governmental organization, known as FACORC, or Faith Clinical Orthopedic Rehabilitation Center.

The organization recently helped organize World Clubfoot Day for the first time in Liberia. Our reporter William Harmon, in his article published last Friday, said FACORC, has since its establishment in 2011, trained more than 30 specialists to repair the deformity. The organization has so far treated over 700 children with the condition. FACORC has satellite clinics in five of Liberia’s 15 counties.

The organization’s Executive Director, Augustine B. Chiewolo, told our reporter that children in Liberia with club-foot “have been neglected for far too long.” He appealed to the GOL to pay greater attention to children with correctable clubfoot deformity and subsidize the Liberian clubfoot program by integrating clubfoot treatment into all health facilities across the country.

We strongly feel that this appeal to the GOL is not only reasonable, but urgent and we hope that Health Minister Bernice Dahn will embrace the program and create the policies for the MOH to take ownership of it. The MOH’s intervention should not consist of policies only but it should join FACORC in expanding the clinical response to this repairable deformity, especially at infancy, so that children throughout the country may no longer have to go through life with this awful condition.

What is it, really? Clubfoot is what Liberians have always called “bow legged” people, especially children. In the 1950s a prominent footballer named Tugbeh was afflicted with that condition, but it did not bother him. The handsome Tugbeh went about with a smile on his face, through Trinity Pro-Cathedral (now Trinity Cathedral) and Sunday School and went on to the United States where he trained as a water engineer. He later married and he and his wife were blessed with two beautiful daughters.

But as we well know, not everybody with a problem, congenital or otherwise, handles it the same way. Some people, like Tugbeh, take their problems in stride, while others take them as serious impediments, and become doubly handicapped by them.

We refer to a typical case of how people put a positive spin on their problems. Look at our amputee athletes. They have represented Liberia in many parts of the world and are now poised to do so again in the USA, where they have pending games in August. We hope that the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Liberia Football Association and all Liberians will give the amputees every encouragement and support so that they will ably represent Liberia in those games and bring back trophies.

At this point, we recall another great Liberian who, like the people at FACORC, has been helping children in severe medical distress. Many people know Mrs. Charlesetta Williams who for years has been taking children to Ghana, Germany, the United States and elsewhere to get them cured of very serious ailments, including closed anuses, heart disease, throats destroyed by accidental caustic soda ingestion, etc. These conditions, like clubfoot, are serious impediments to the affected children’s normal existence. So we commend the FACORC people, as well as Mrs. Williams and all others who are reaching out to children in distress. Dr. Dahn, should see the advantage to MOH being actively involved in promoting and supporting individuals and institutions that are successfully intervening in the lives of Liberian children in distress and thereby shouldering some of its important responsibilities.

We close by reminding MOH, Ministry of Gender and Children’s Protection, Ministry of Education and the entire government and all Liberians to remember the Ebola orphans and children who are victims of rape and other abuses and do what is required to assist them to move confidently and progressively on in school and in life.

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